Elsie's New Relations by Martha Finley
"Farewell, God knows when we shall meet again." --Shakespeare.
The next morning the captain and Max were out together on the beach before Violet and the little girls had left their rooms. The lad liked to be alone with his father sometimes. He had always been proud and fond of him, and the past few months of constant intercourse had greatly strengthened the bonds of affection between them. The boy's heart was sore at thought of the parting that must soon come, the captain's hardly less so. He talked very kindly with his son, urging him to make the best use of his time, talents and opportunities, and grow up to be a good, honorable and useful man.
"I want to be just such a man as you are, papa," Max said, with an admiring, affectionate look up into his father's face, and slipping his hand into his as he spoke.
The captain clasped the hand lovingly in his, and held it fast.
"I hope you will be a better and more talented man, my boy," he said, "but always remember my most ardent wish is to see you a truly good man, a Christian, serving God with all your powers."
At this moment a voice behind them said, "Good-mornin', cap'n. I'se got a lettah hyah for you, sah."
"Ah, good-morning, Ben, and thank you for bringing it," said the captain, turning round to receive it.
"You's bery welcom, sah," responded Ben, touching his hat respectfully, then walking away toward Mr. Dinsmore's cottage.
"From Washington," the captain remarked, more to himself than to Max, as he broke the seal.
Max watched him while he read, then asked, a little tremulously, "Must you go very soon, papa?"
"Within three days, my boy. But we won't say anything about it until after prayers, but let Mamma Vi and your sisters enjoy their breakfast in peace."
"Yes, sir. Papa, I wish I was going with you!"
"But think how your sisters would miss you, Max."
"Yes, sir, I suppose they would. I hadn't thought of that."
"Besides, I want you to take my place to Mamma Vi as nearly as you can," added his father, looking smilingly at him.
"O papa, thank you!" cried the boy, his face growing bright with pleased surprise. "I will try my very best and do all for her that I can."
"I don't doubt it, my son. And now let us go in, for it must be breakfast-time, I think."
Lulu and Grace ran out to the veranda to meet them with a glad, "Good-morning, papa," and holding up their faces for a kiss.
It was bestowed heartily, as he stooped and gathered them in his arms, saying in tender tones, "Good-morning, my dear little daughters."
The breakfast bell was ringing, and they hastened to obey its summons. They found Violet already in the dining-room, and looking sweet and fresh as a rose, in a pretty, becoming morning dress.
The captain chatted cheerfully with her and the children while he ate, seeming to enjoy his beefsteak, muffins and coffee; but Max scarcely spoke, and occasionally had some difficulty in swallowing his food because of the lump that would rise in his throat at the thought of the parting now drawing so near.
Directly after breakfast came family worship. Then as Violet and her husband stood together before the window looking out upon the sea, he gave her his Washington letter to read.
She glanced over it, while he put his arm about her waist.
"O Levis, so soon!" she said tremulously, looking up at him with eyes full of tears, then her head dropped upon his shoulder, and the tears began to fall.
He soothed her with caresses and low-breathed words of endearment; of hope, too, that the separation might not be a long one.
"What is it, Max?" whispered Lulu, "has papa got his orders?"
"Yes; and has to be off in less than three days," replied Max, in husky tones, and hastily brushing away a tear.
Lulu's eyes filled, but by a great effort she kept the tears from falling.
The captain turned toward them. "We are going into the other house, children," he said. "You can come with us if you wish."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," they said, and Grace ran to her father and put her hand in his.
They found the Dinsmore and Travilla family all assembled in the parlor, discussing plans for the day, all of which were upset by the captain's news.
His ship lay in Boston harbor, and it was promptly decided that they would all leave to-day for that city, only a few hours' distant.
As the cottages had been rented furnished, and all had for days past held themselves in readiness for sudden departure, this would afford ample time for the necessary packing and other arrangements.
All was presently bustle and activity in both houses. Zoe and Edward, with no painful parting in prospect, made themselves very merry over their packing. They were much like two children, and except when overcome by the recollection of her recent bereavement, Zoe was as playful and frolicsome as a kitten.
"Can I help, Mamma Vi?" asked Lulu, following Violet into her dressing-room.
Vi considered a moment. "You are a dear child to want to help," she said, smiling kindly upon the little girl. "I don't think you can pack your trunk, but you can be of use here by handing me things out of the bureau drawers and wardrobe. There are so many trunks to pack that I cannot think of leaving Agnes to do it all."
"My dear," said the captain, coming in at that moment, "you are not to do anything but sit in that easy-chair and give directions. I flatter myself that I am quite an expert in this line."
"Can you fold ladies' dresses so that they will carry without rumpling?" asked Violet, looking up at him with a saucy smile.
"Perhaps not. I can't say I ever tried that. Agnes may do that part of the work, and I will attend to the rest."
"And may I hand you the things, papa?" asked Lulu.
"Yes, daughter," he said, "I like to see you trying to be useful."
They set to work, Violet looking on with interest. "Why, you are an excellent packer, Levis," she remarked presently, "far better than I or Agnes either."
"Thank you," he said, "I am very glad to be able to save you the exertion."
"And you do it so rapidly," she said. "It would have taken me twice as long."
"That is partly because I am much stronger, and partly the result of a good deal of practice. And Lulu is quite a help," he added, with an affectionate look at her.
She flushed with pleasure. "Are you going to pack the other trunks, papa? Max's and Grade's and mine? And may I help you with them?" she asked.
"Yes, is my answer to both questions," he returned.
"Where are Max and Gracie?" asked Violet.
"I told Max to take his little sister to the beach, and take care of and amuse her," the captain said in answer to the question.
"Don't you want to be out at play, too, Lulu?" asked Violet. "I can help your papa."
"No, ma'am, thank you," the child answered in a quick, emphatic way. "I'd a great deal rather be with papa to-day than playing."
He gave her a pleased look and smile, and Violet said, "That is nice, Lulu; I am very glad his children love him so."
"Indeed we do, Mamma Vi! every one of us!" exclaimed Lulu. "Papa knows we do. Don't you, papa?"
"Yes, I am quite sure of it," he said. "And that my wife is fond of me also," with a smiling glance at her, "and altogether it makes me a very happy man."
"As you deserve to be," said Violet, gayly. "Please, sir, will you allow me to fold my dresses?"
"No, for here comes Agnes," as the maid entered the room, "who, I dare say, can do it better. Come, Lulu, we will go now to your room."
Violet stayed where she was to direct and assist Agnes, and Lulu was glad, because she wanted to be alone with her father for a while.
When her trunk was packed he turned to leave the room, but she detained him. "Papa," she said, clinging to his hand, "I--I want to speak to you."
He sat down and drew her to his side, putting an arm about her waist. "Well, daughter, what is it?" he asked kindly, stroking the hair back from her forehead with the other hand.
"Papa, I--I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry for----" she stammered, her eyes drooping, her cheeks growing crimson.
"Sorry for your former naughtiness and rebellion?" he asked gently, as she paused, leaving her sentence unfinished.
"Yes, papa, I couldn't bear to let you go away without telling you so again."
"Well, daughter, it was all forgiven long ago, and you have been a pretty good girl most of the time since that first sad week."
"Papa, I do want to be good," she said earnestly, "but somehow the badness will get the better of me."
"Yes; each one of us has an evil nature to fight against," he said, "and it will get the better of us unless we are very determined and battle with it, not in our own strength only, but crying mightily for assistance to Him who has said, 'In me is thine help.'
"We must watch and pray, my child. The Bible bids us keep our hearts with all diligence, and set a watch at the door of our lips that we sin not with our tongues. Also to pray without ceasing. We need to cry often to God for help to overcome the evil that is in our own hearts, and the snares of the world and the devil, 'who goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.'"
"Papa," she said, looking up into his face, "do you find it hard to be good sometimes?"
"Yes, my child; I have the same battle to fight that you have, and I am the more sorry for you because I know by experience how difficult it sometimes is to do right."
"And you have to help me by punishing me when I'm naughty, and making me do as I ought?"
"Yes, and my battle is sometimes for patience with a naughty, disobedient child."
"I think you were very patient with me that time you kept me shut up so long in this room," she said. "If I'd been in your place I'd have got a good switch and whipped my little girl till I made her obey me at once."
"Do you think that would have been the better plan?"
"No, sir. I think you'd have had to 'most kill me before I'd have given up, but if I'd been in your place I couldn't have had patience to wait."
"You need to cultivate the grace of patience, then," he said gravely. "Now come with me to Max's room, and let us see if we can pack up his goods and chattels."
"Papa, I almost think I could pack it myself after watching you pack all these others."
"Possibly; but I shall do it more quickly, with you to help in getting all the things together."
Every one was ready in due season for departure, and that night the two cottages that for months past had been so full of light and life, were dark, silent and deserted.
Arriving in Boston, the whole party took rooms at one of the principal hotels. There they spent the night, but the greater part of the next day was passed on board the captain's vessel.
The day after the parting came; a very hard one for him, his young wife and children. Little feeble Gracie cried herself sick, and Violet found it necessary to put aside the indulgence of her own grief in order to comfort the nearly heart-broken child, who clung to her as she might have done to her own mother.
Max and Lulu made no loud lament, but their quiet, subdued manner and sad countenances told of deep and sincere sorrow, and, in truth, they often felt ready to join in Gracie's oft-repeated cry, "Oh, how can I do without my dear, dear papa?"
But they were with kind friends. Every one in the party showed them sympathy, pretty presents were made them, and they were taken to see all the sights of the city likely to interest them.
Grandma Elsie particularly endeared herself to them at this time by her motherly tenderness and care, treating them as if they were her own children.
Their father had given each two parting gifts, a handsome pocket Bible, with the injunction to commit at least one verse to memory every day, and a pretty purse with some spending money in it; for he knew they would enjoy making purchases for themselves when visiting the city stores with the older people.
So they did; and Lulu, who was generous to a fault, had soon spent her all in gifts for others; a lovely new doll for Gracie, some books for Max, a bottle of perfumery for "Mamma Vi," and a toy for Walter.
Violet was much pleased with the present to herself as an evidence of growing affection. She received it with warm thanks and a loving embrace. "My dear child, it was very kind in you to think of me!" she said. "It makes me hope you have really given me a little place in your heart, dear."
"Oh, yes, Mamma Vi, indeed I have!" cried the little girl, returning the embrace. "Surely we ought all to love you when you love our dear father so much, and he loves you, too."
"Certainly," said Max, who was standing by; "we couldn't help loving so sweet and pretty a lady if she was nothing at all to us and we lived in the same house with her, and how can we think she's any less nice and sweet just because she's married to our father?"
"And how can I help loving you because you are the children of my dear husband?" responded Violet, taking the boy's hand and pressing it warmly in hers.
Some hours later Violet accidentally overheard part of a conversation between her little sister Rose and Lulu.
"Yes," Rosie was saying, "mamma gives me fifty cents a week for spending money."
"Ah, how nice!" exclaimed Lulu. "Papa often gives us some money, but not regularly, and Max and I have often talked together about how much we would like to have a regular allowance. I'd be delighted, even if it wasn't more than ten cents."
Violet had been wishing to give the children something, and trying to find out what would be most acceptable, so was greatly pleased with the hint given her by this little speech of Lulu's.
The child came presently to her side to bid her good-night. Violet put an arm around her, and kissing her affectionately, said, "Lulu, I have been thinking you might like to have an allowance of pocket money, as Rosie has. Would you?"
"O Mamma Vi! I'd like it better than anything else I can think of!" cried the little girl, her face sparkling with delight.
"Then you shall have it and begin now," Violet said, taking out her purse and putting two bright silver quarters into Lulu's hand.
"Oh, thank you, mamma, how good and kind in you!" cried the child.
"Max shall have the same," said Violet, "and Gracie half as much for the present. When she is a little older it shall be doubled. Don't you want the pleasure of telling Max, and taking this to him?" she asked, putting another half dollar into Lulu's hand.
"Oh yes, ma'am! Thank you very much!"
Max was on the farther side of the room--a good-sized parlor of the hotel where they were staying--very much absorbed in a story-book; Lulu approached him softly, a gleeful smile on her lips and in her eyes, and laid his half dollar on the open page.
"What's that for?" he asked, looking round at her.
"For you; and you're to have as much every week, Mamma Vi says."
"O Lu! am I, really?"
"Yes; I too; and Gracie's to have a quarter."
"Oh, isn't it splendid!" he cried, and hurried to Violet to pour out his thanks.
Grandma Elsie, seated on the sofa by Violet's side, shared with her the pleasure of witnessing the children's delight.
Our friends had now spent several days in Boston, and the next morning they left for Philadelphia, where they paid a short visit to relatives. This was their last halt on the journey home to Ion.